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Mind Your Own Beeswax

As a kid, I remember using the phrase “mind your own beeswax” – instead of mind your own business – as a reaction to others who were being nosy. When I recently looked up this phrase I found several things, including:

“Since ‘mind their own business’ sounds harsh, if not impolite, the close-sounding word ‘beeswax’ was substituted. Those to whom the remark was directed might still get their noses out of joint, but somewhat less so than if the word had been ‘business’.”

“An interesting, although fanciful, piece of folk etymology tells us that American colonial women stood over a kettle and stirred wax to make candles. If they didn’t pay attention, the wax or fire might burn their hair and clothing. Someone who let her concentration wander would be reminded to ‘mind your own beeswax’.”

Another meaning According to Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper (2009) by C. Marina Marchese is that “the expression might have its origins in the time when people sealed their letters with beeswax so no one could read them.”

Though there may be other theories, the relevant point for this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog is that some of us become irritated when we experience others are “minding our business”, leading to a conflict. Generally, we might not care when some people inquire after and about us. However, there are times when it feels invasive and intrusive to be asked things about what we are doing and why. Or, it may be when we find out someone is asking others about us. Perhaps it’s when, or additionally, the inquirer is someone who we believe has no right or reason to know things about us.

If you have a situation that has led to conflict in which you have said directly or with your inner voice “mind your own beeswax or business”, this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog might be of interest.

  • What occurred?
  • What is it about your business that the other person is curious about that feels intrusive to you?
  • Why might that be (your answer to the above question)?
  • If you don’t know why the person is curious, how might you find out?
  • What reason for the other person not minding her or his business might reduce your negative reaction?
  • How might you describe the impact on you?
  • What bothers you most about the person not minding her or his business?
  • Why do you suppose that is – that it bothers you?
  • What is it about the person, if you haven’t said so already, i.e. who it is, how she or he is asking, etc.?
  • When you have been accused of not minding your own business – if you have – what inspired your curiosity? Why is that?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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Argue for Your Limitations

There’s a quote I really like by Richard Bach. It reads:

“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.”

I think this statement applies to any limitations we place on ourselves. That is, when we are convinced we are unable to be or do something – so it is. Self-limiting beliefs might sound like: “I’m not skilled enough to do that…”; “I am weak when it comes to…”; “I have no confidence about…”; and so on.

Reasons we identify certain things as limiting might be a matter of low self-esteem, history of being criticized, or even lack of motivation, laziness and other reasons. Essentially, we come to believe our self-professed limitations in whatever ways they began and they essentially preclude any efforts to disabuse ourselves of them.

When it comes to conflict, I often hear coaching clients and parties in mediations “argue their limitations”. This might sound something like: “I hate conflict. I’d rather avoid it”; “It’s easier to just give in”; “I have no idea how to settle things”; “It’s my fault, but I won’t apologize because…”; “If I knew how to resolve this I wouldn’t be here”; and so on.

Self-limiting beliefs in conflict restrict our thinking, our creativity, our ability to gain distance and to see beyond situations. They restrict hopefulness and optimism and the effort to try. Further, self-limiting beliefs get in the way of resolving and reconciling matters.

If you have self-limiting beliefs about yourself in a conflict situation, please consider these questions:

  • What is the situation?
  • What self-limiting beliefs, if any, do you have about the situation?
  • What self-limiting beliefs, if any, do you have about yourself in this situation?
  • What self-limiting beliefs, if any, do you have about your relationship with the other person?
  • What are you gaining from your beliefs referred to in the last 3 questions? What are you losing from these beliefs?
  • From where do your self-limiting beliefs come?
  • How real is each self-limiting belief you named on a scale of 1-10 as absolutely true descriptions of yourself (10 on the scale reflects absolutely true)?
  • What do you prefer to believe about yourself regarding each self-limiting belief you named?
  • What will it take for you to believe your preferred belief?
  • If you lived your preferred beliefs, what would be different in the conflict you described (first question)? How would your life otherwise be different?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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Bringing Your Best Self to a Conflict

I like this quote by Doris Lessing from The Golden Notebook:

“There’s only one real sin, and that is to persuade oneself that the second-best is anything but the second-best.”

Many of us consider doing our second best in situations as sufficient. Maybe this is because we didn’t feel our best at the time and excuse our behaviour because it seems to be the best we could bring to it. Other reasons may have to do with low self-esteem, insufficient tools, lack of support and so on.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog suggests that we have a choice to bring our best self – not our second best self – to our conflict situations. What follows then, are some reflective questions to consider before a conflict arises – when you sense one is imminent – to be able to bring your best self to it.

  • What is going on for you that gives you the sense that a conflict is imminent?
  • What is going on that gives you the sense that the other person might be sharing the same sense, if that’s the case?
  • What specifically is being triggered inside you?
  • What might you be saying or doing to provoke the other person?
  • How do you describe the best version of the you that you want to bring to this dispute?
  • By bringing that best version (that you just described), what do you have to do to shift your attitude about the conflict?
  • By bringing that best version (that you just described), what do you have to do to shift your attitude about the other person?
  • By bringing that best version (that you just described), what do you have to do to shift your attitude about yourself?
  • How is the best version of yourself different from the second best version of you?
  • How is the best version of you someone you feel humbled and honoured to be?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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Crying Our Eyes Out

Recently a conflict management coaching client told me she had “cried her eyes out” about a dispute she is having with a co-worker. I have used this same expression myself when I’ve been extremely upset. On this occasion – hearing my client describe her reaction – I was struck by how dramatic this phrase is. It says so much about the depth of feelings experienced – and even the length of time expended in a state of distress.

Of course, we don’t really cry our eyes out. But, the symbolism is poignant and I began to wonder about what the idiom really reflects. Is it about not being able to see anymore? Is it about losing something visual like ‘seeing’ the other person as we want her or him to be? Is it about having to change our vision of ourselves or them? Or, what else might it be?

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites you to answer the following questions by considering a conflict situation that was or is difficult for you, such as you, metaphorically, said or would say you “cried your eyes out”.

  • What is or was the situation?
  • What is or was most devastating about this situation such that you “cried your eyes out” (or would say this idiom describes your reaction to the situation)?
  • What three words describe the depth of your emotions about this conflict?
  • What stopped the tears – literally or figuratively – eventually?
  • When you stopped crying – literally or figuratively – what new vision do you have about the situation?
  • What might you have lost sight of in this conflict?
  • What new vision do you have about the other person?
  • What new vision do you have about yourself?
  • What else do you see now that you didn’t when you “cried your eyes out” (or felt like you could “cry your eyes out”)?
  • What do you realize now that you consider how you experienced this conflict that reflects the symbolism of saying you “cried your eyes out” or feeling as though you could?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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Moving On After Conflict

The confusion and internal chaos that conflict can, at times, wreak on us accounts, in part, for the desire to move past it and get over it as soon as possible. Often we also want the other person to do so. On the other hand, there are times we might find we are disappointed when she or he moves on too soon.

We vary in our post-conflict reactions and these reactions differ for many reasons. They may depend on factors such as who the other person is, the situation, the degree of hurt we or they experience, our contribution, the outcome and so on.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog is an opportunity to consider your sensibilities post-conflict about a specific situation that you are having trouble moving on from.

  • What was the situation?
  • What seems to be making it challenging for you to move on?
  • What specifically are you holding onto?
  • What remains most unresolved for you about that (your answer to the previous question)?
  • What would it take for you to be able to move on?
  • How likely is that to happen (your answer to the previous question)?
  • If you moved on, what would you miss most that seems to be something you are holding onto?
  • How do you describe your continuing emotions about the situation and the other person?
  • If you moved on, with what feelings would you like to replace the current ones?
  • You might not be ready to move on or even want to. If that’s the case, why do you think that is?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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